With the help of his mechanic buddy, an engineer, and the company's attractive new publicist, an automotive test driver struggles to develop a new carburetor by entering cars in the Indy 500 and speed trials at California's Muroc Dry Lake.
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Terry is the chief car tester for Emery Motors and Frank is an Engineer. Jane has just been hired to work in publicity. Frank and Terry both want Jane to be their girl. Terry has designed a new carburetor that should bring him fame and money, but he cannot get it to work correctly. Terry and Gadget have tested it for over a year, but it still is not perfected. Emery Motors assigns Frank to help Terry with the carburetor, but Terry is not happy because Frank is an Engineer and is also vying for Jane. They finish the carburetor, and to test it, they enter a car in the Indianapolis 500 race. Terry is not yet satisfied with the carburetor before the big race even though it has passed all the tests. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some very cool moments mixed with a clumsy script and generally flat plot
This movie has a small bit of historic interest for reasons that don't make it a very good movie. First of all this is James Stewart's first official leading role. As he commented once, he got lots of small parts in big movies, and in this on he got a big part in a small movie. The movie is small because it's low budget and rather poorly written (both in its plot and its dialog).
Secondly, there are scenes of early (1935) Indy 500 racing. The most surprising part of this is having two people in each car, a driver and a mechanic who kept the systems going at their peak (or just keep them going at all in some cases). This allows for some pretty corny scenes where one of the people in one car will make faces or gestures to someone in another car (as they are cruising at 140 mph).
If you like Stewart you'll like him here despite the various limitations. He plays Terry Martin, whose love of racing at a track leads eventually to his going after a land speed record in a bizarre car with a giant fin for stabilization. (This was a special vehicle supplied by Chrysler for the shoot, not quite the real deal.) Of course this leads to a crisis and then the woman of the story, played with lackluster but reasonable ease by Una Merkel, gets her chance to win the hero's heart. This gives nothing away, believe me. It's all in lights from the get go.
A better movie, if still not even slightly brilliant, is certainly the 1950 Clark Cable movie with Barbara Stanwyck in the leading female role (and with a far more empowering part for a woman) , "To Please a Lady." And if you really want to round this out, the Paul Newman movie from 1969 called "Winning" is another faltering attempt at making this scene work on screen. Maybe if all three were played simultaneously on three screens you could get the roar and some interesting plots mixing together well. Individually they make for some fun moments and lots of stalling and pits stops. The actors, at least, are stars that hold their own in each case.
"Speed" is never slow, but that's not the same thing as getting any kind of checkered flag. Watch as filler.
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